Surprise Easter

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The facts: A month out from the trip, I contacted a friend of a best friend. She was a known foodie, and lover of parties/gatherings/get togethers. She lived in Berkeley or – as she ashamedly pointed out – Albany. She had Sunday and Tuesday free. We settled in on Sunday to host a brunch at her house for about 14 people. We wanted to do a nice three course meal, keep it relatively inexpensive, and keep the brunch drinks flowing. That Thursday before,  the number of people wanting to come dropped from 14 to 11 in basically an instant, and we didn’t quite know why.
The reality: Turns out, none of us had realized it was Easter Sunday.

With that little cognitive mishap out of the way, Unfamiliar Suppers wanted to give them the best meal they could have on Easter. Fresh breads for sure. Jams. Eggs. French toast. Berries. Bloodies. Bloody Marys as much as they could handle. Bloody Marys that demanded us to run out in the middle of service to go grab more supplies. Bloodies.

Keep in mind that this brunch was coming on the heals of the Berkeley 25 person dinner the night before. So as we fell asleep in a room just twenty feet from the kitchen we just prepped and cleaned in, we knew that we would be walking those ten paces in the morning to start beating eggs and kneading dough.

But lo and behold, we woke up with a spring in our step and sunshine on our faces to cook the best Easter Bunny Lovely Lady Brunch they had ever seen.

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Rachel’s house was amazing – beautiful huge windows, open floor plan, massive kitchen, outdoor patio, it was the thing of dreams for a supper / brunch club to come cook in. With most of the meal prepped at Laura’s house just a mile away, we got to out there around noon. By 12:30, ladies were enjoying fresh baked breads and Bloody Marys, sitting around a table illuminated by the sun peaking through heavy rain clouds. When 3:30 rolled around, everyone was happy, full, and tipsy off of Easter.

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The first course we put out was fresh sourdough toast with compound nori butter and maple-rosemary biscuits with rhubarb jam. A nice pastry board that had the savory butter with even a touch of umami from the dried seaweed, and the sweet rhubarb with a touch of tang.

Soon to follow came two gorgeous cast-iron pan cooked caramelized onion, cheddar, and swiss chard frittatas  with sliced avocado served along side a cucumber salad and potatoes roasted two ways: oven roasted potatoes with either rosemary, salt, and pepper or kimchi. Savory or spicy and tangy. The kimchi potatoes flew off people’s plates, even when only half of the massive slice of frittata was devoured.

The grand finale – oven baked bread pudding French toast served with maple roasted bananas, macerated strawberries, and whipped cream. Honestly who could say no other than an adamant gluten intolerant or severe lactose hater?

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What was incredible about this brunch, is that everyone was so happy to see each other, share stories, sit and revel in the fact that nothing had to be done today not only because it was a Sunday but also because it was a Holiday, and everyone was ecstatic about the food – they clapped when we came out. Clapped! it made me blush, no lies. Pictures snapped. Bloodies drank. Smiles shared. Naps planned.

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Happy Easter.

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How Perfect

It seems ironic — to a large degree — that I would be writing about a near perfect day, seeing as yesterday was anything but perfect. But the good days have to come with the bad, and there are some days that work out perfectly. Or almost perfectly, seeing as perfection is all but attainable.

Start: a wake up call from the rising sun through my window to which I see crisp blue skies and a few birds flying by. Note: yes this day is going to sound over the top with details such as “a few birds flying by” and yes, they are all true. Note: I didn’t prepare for such a perfect day so the pictures are limited. Enjoy the words.

Finding a cup of coffee already made out in my kitchen, I strapped on my running gear and headed out into the beautiful Brooklyn day for a seven mile run around neighborhoods and through Prospect Park, which was comfortably full of runners, joggers, walkers, talkers, bikers, players, loungers, and horses. Pause.

Restart: A nice shower and a clean room at my fingertips, I headed out with my roomie to find my new guilty pleasure at the little local coffee shop on the border of Bedstuy and Clinton Hill: a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Dirty Chai, she called out and I laughed at the name, and ordered one for myself.

The uncapped chai-coffee lasted maybe two blocks on our walk to a mecca of relaxation deep into Bedstuy: a closed spa (50 dollars for an hour long massage ain’t nothing to sneeze at), hair salon, café/brunch spot, and a Candela store. Perfection.

We didn’t tend to our appearances, rather we ate brunch at this café which was named none other than the “Biggie Bedstuy Brunch.” Belgium waffle, turkey bacon, cheesy eggs, maple syrup, two coffees. We listened to good music and talked about new neighborhoods to which to move. I laughed too loud a few times and made the counter person look my way. After a delicious brunch, and buying a piece of their carrot cake (which was about three pounds of cake) for the later times, we headed out and I met up with a dear friend to walk around Park Slope and find a place to sit and talk and catch up and plan and.

We tried a few coffee shops but, anywhere and everywhere in Park Slope is nonstop laptop-ville. Honestly we walked into three places only to find twenty or thirty people with twenty or thirty computers, staring, listening to music, “working.”

On ward ho! We made it to café Grumpy in Park Slope which does a delicious pour over and a wonderful Flat White (like a cappuccino or cortado but less milk and more foam).  Note: carrot cake still in hand.

Two hours later, after telling stories and the like, I had to book it back to Fort Greene to set up a CSA distribution. Carrots and Parsnips and Beets and Celeriac and Rutabaga and Spinach and Onions and Garlic and Potatoes were on the menu this time. So for that, I sat at the bar, drank a glass of red wine and made little recipe cards. Soups! Next time, maybe some coconut milk kale. Note: carrot cake still in hand.

The distribution closed early, so I headed out to meet up with an infant weekly supper club with a friend from years ago. We had the hardest of times trying to figure out a place to go. Our conclusion? The Dutch in Soho. It’s delicious with an amazingly vibrant space.

We didn’t have any reservations, but we charged our way through to the bar and waited for a table. Only four sips into an amazing rum-bitters-orange drink were we being asked to sit in a corner table overlooking the whole bar area. Perfect.

The menu was unreal. Lauren and I tried to narrow it down, but really we could only take like three things off the menu. Instead, we decided to do two fried oyster sliders, one appetizer, two seconds, and…. Two desserts.

Note: Lauren and I aren’t what you would call big eaters at first glance. The waitress didn’t flinch and wished us luck. We drove through every bite.

Three hours after we sat down, and steak tartar with romaine, quail egg, olives, homemade Caesar, and short rib pot roast with golden turnips, stout and caraway and red wine reduction pan sauce, and beautiful halibut with yuzu butter sauce, tobiko, winter garden vegetables, and sour cream apple pie with walnut ice cream, and toffee cake with a grapefruit glaze that I want to recreate later, we reveled in the fact that we didn’t need reservations, and just had a symphony of flavors from drinks to oysters through to dessert to the fact that we had sat there long enough o have digested some of the food and not felt too full.

Hopping on the subway home after making sure that we were going to do that again next Monday, to make the day more perfect, I stumbled on the same car as my roommate. I wore her hat, and we told each other about the day and spoke too loudly and accumulated some stares and didn’t stop talking until we parted ways in our kitchen.

How. Perfect.

 

 

 

Obsessed

Currently, I have three obsessions. Just three things that I constantly think about and have to hold myself back. Restrain myself from partaking in each and every day, every meal. And seeing as it’s a Friday, hopefully you, too, can go off into the weekend thinking about these things too…

Dough Donuts.

I would consider myself a healthy person. I run daily. I eat my fruits and veggies. I steer clear of over-indulgence. I have a glass of wine or beer occasionally. I hardly ever get too crazy with sugars (except for when I’m fresh off a run… I for some reason crave sugar like it’s my job. Cake? 9am? Back from a run? You bet your bottom dollar I’m there). I don’t get into really fatty foods cause they just made me feel all weighed down and lethargic. But, folks, I’ll put all of that on hold for a Dough donut.

Back in high school, I’d go crazy over Krispy Kremes. Then I grew up, and so did my taste buds. They’re good, but nothing to throw in the healthy towel for. I actually have this weakness for really good donuts, so if it’s an option, I’ll try a new one. I can resist those that I know (see: Krispy Kreme, Dunkin, anything from a box in a grocery store), but new ones I have to try. Have to. So at the farmers markets, I’m the one with a bag full of fennel and an apple cider donut, just for kicks.

Dough Donuts are something above all other donuts. I don’t care if I’ve tried each and every flavor, I will go back for more. I am completely obsessed. And the best part is, there are so many flavors. And we’re not talking just glazed and chocolate. No. We’re taking Hibiscus, Blood Orange with candied rinds, Dulce de Leche with slivered Almonds, Lemon Poppy Seed, Toasted Coconut, Chocolate Earl Grey, Chocolate with chocolate nibs, Cinnamon Sugar, Café au Lait, Berry Glazed… the list goes on a changes frequently.

And these donuts are simply on another level. They are large and yeasty with pockets of air built into their pillowy soft circular frame with slightly crispy barriers that aren’t too sweet so that the icing, the flavors can come through and pop. The dough itself is simultaneously a medium for the flavor, as well as an extravagant flavor in itself. Beautifully obsessed.

Consider: Brunch.

Of all things to be obsessed with, brunch seems like one of the last things to be all stir crazy over. I mean, it’s a meal. Anything can happen. But in New York, they take their brunches seriously. All you can drink mimosas and bloody mary’s to entice you in. Prix Fixe menus to excite the lavish diners. Tables that can be reserved for three hours as you wine and dine in the middle of the day because, well, you can. It’s Saturday. Or Sunday. Or any day of the week, seemingly for some New Yorkers.

Last Sunday I met up with a really dear friend, Mary, to catch up over a prix fixe menu at The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights. We each got different things, save the Dew Drop drink of grapefruit juice and prosecco. Beignets came out first, followed by a savory crepe of a light fish topped with dill crème sauce and a soft poached egg. To the side, cottage fries. Mary had an egg dish akin to Eggs Benedict,that was out of this world good with a cheesy Hollandaise-like sauce worth telling others about.

But it wasn’t this restaurant that got me all hot and bothered, rather just the idea of relaxing with friends eating good food sitting in perfect weather with light plans throughout the day, living the life of an affluent person, if not just for three hours.

I’m obsessed.

The last person I’m obsessed with: this girl. I saw her at a concert, and fell in love. I wish you could have seen her. She had an amazingly cute voice and played the ukelele.

Try them out. Dough Donuts. Brunch. And find this girl. She’ll brighten your day.

Get Close

How do you get as close to your food as possible? No, not in terms of touching your nose to your chocolate fig cake, but in terms of distribution. Farm to fork. Seed to plate. Cradle to grave – we’ve all heard these catchy phrases being tossed around but how do you really get close?

Among many perks of living near farms is actually going to them. There is a sense of connectedness, a rooting of person to place, of food to plate, of Farm to Fork. Recently in the Finger Lakes area a bunch of farms have been teaming up with local restaurateurs , grocers, and drink dispensaries to bring the consumer as close to the producer. About a month ago, I went to Silver Queen farm with three wonderful dining companions to have brunch in a barn catered by Serendipity Catering.

Starting at 11:30 am, the brunch tables were set up with local flowers, white linens, and fresh fruit plates for guest to stream in a devour. Peaches, melons, raspberries all sat, beautifully cut, in a pool of honey with honeycomb on the side. To its right, a bowl of local, fresh yogurt.

As we got our bearings (farm out back, coffee to our right and produce for sale on our left), fresh baked goods arrived. Salty scones (on the best kind of scones!) – moist and delectable – fruity muffins, crumbled sweet coffee cake all tempted us to ruin our appetite before the “main” brunch courses came forth.

And come they did – a choice of two quiches. The dark rich flavors of caramelized onions and chevre or the bright flavors of tomato, sage, broccoli and cheddar. Either choice –speaking from gluttonous experience – was buttery, savory, cheesy, locally superb.

With both quiches came locally raised and slaughtered bacon and breakfast potatoes – a cute and quaint name for gourmet homefries.

The combination of these sweet to savory dishes was not only worth the drive, the money, and the planning, but also deliciously easy on the conscious. Everything – even to the fruit in the “all but essential mimosas” provided to all adults was from a farm within 100 miles. It’s like it was supposed to be, or something.

The Silver Queen Farm to Fork Menu

Peach, Raspberries, Plums, Melon, Honey. Breads and Pastries. Breakfast Potatoes. Caramelized Onion and Chevre Quiche. Tomato, Sage, Broccoli, and Cheddar Quiche. Gimme Coffee. Mimosas (courtesy of Felicia’s Atomic Lounge).

Next Farm to Fork in the Finger Lakes? October 2nd. Get in on it, quick.

And The Gorilla Said…

Brunch was not created by some high aristocratic group of people, wanting to wine and dine and lackadaisically enjoy their morning. It was not created to allow restaurants to increase their prices and serve alcohol at breakfast. Not even a group of well-to-do men dressed in pinstripe suites with shined shoes living the expatriot life in the hills of Tuscany created the idea of brunch.

Rather, the idea was urged and pushed onto the public back in 1895 by a man by the name of Guy Beringer in an article entitled “Brunch: a plea”. He wasn’t looking for the fancy atmosphere or the posh life-style. He was just looking for a few extra hours to sleep off the hangover from the night before. One of his most convincing arguments, in my book was “to be fashionable nowadays, we must brunch.”

And today, fashionable we are. We know that today brunch is synonymous with Sundays and lazy mornings. It is the meal where people stave off hunger in the early morning just to splurge at a mid-morning-mid-day meal. It is the meal where drinking before noon is okay. It is the meal that could start at 11am or 2pm. It is the meal that says: I’ve got all the time in the world, no worries. It is upper-east side New York City. It is Southern Alabama porches. It is California Beaches. It is London with tea. It is Italy with olive oil. It is Seoul on Dosan Park. It is a Gorilla in the morning.

Seoul has its fair share of cuisines, as you’ve surely seen by now. Indian, Chinese, American, Middle Eastern, Bulgarian, Ethiopian, Italian, Greek, Spanish Tapas, the list goes on. But one type of cuisine I didn’t expect to find here was Brunch. For some reason, I didn’t think that custom would break through. I was wrong.

Located just a few steps away from Dosan Park – a quaint little eco-breath-of-fresh-air in the middle of Apgujeong (home of high end brands and plastic surgery) – is a restaurant named Gorilla in the Kitchen. Gorilla is owned by Bae Yoong-Joon, a famous Korean Hallyu star, and the European-Influenced menu focuses on health. Their placemats, amongst the Korean quips, claim that their restaurant uses “No Cream. No Butter. No Deep Fried. No Worries.”

The interior was pure white, allowing for the people and food to brighten up what is otherwise a blank canvass. Throughout the week – as my mom, Emily, and I discovered about a month ago – they only serve Lunch and Dinner. But the weekend indulges the patrons in Brunch. Boom, no worries. What a perfect place for a lazy Brunch?

Meeting around noon, a friend and I set off to enjoy that magical meal where anything can happen. We both got the Brunch set – she got pancakes and I an omelet. In addition to our mains, we also received a basket of breads, three spreads (fig jam, blueberry jam, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar), a salad, and an Americano.

The pancake was soft, and crepe-like with subtle hints of sweetness to combat the slightly bitter craisins cooked into the plate-sized meal, all topped with sliced banana. The omelet was fluffy and stuffed full of diced vegetables sautéed to enjoyment. Off to the side, sautéed greens with salty Canadian style bacon, a baked tomato stuffed with a rice porridge, and maple glazed new potatoes all played outstanding supporting roles in the Sunday Brunch festival.

After our splurge at Gorilla, we did what any well-respected 20somethings would do, wandered around a park and posed for pictures like we were in magazines.

A Brunch, at its finest. Good atmosphere. Good company. Good Food. No plans for the rest of the day.

For more information about the formation of brunches, how they moved from Britain to America, and what’s changed on the brunch menu throughout the years, check out another post I wrote a few years ago at a blog I used to contribute to: Eat Me Drink Me.